CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Zombie baseball. Could the Return of the Living Dead be upon us?
The last time the Indians lost nine straight games was in August of 2012. Manny Acta was the manager and the Indians went 5-24 that month, thus casting Zombie baseball upon its fan base. The Indians lost 94 games that year, featuring a combination of bad offense and pitching. Does that sound familiar?
Acta was fired and Terry Francona was hired at the end of the season. Francona has led the Indians to eight straight winning seasons, three division titles, an AL pennant and five postseason appearances.
Tonight the Indians play the Royals in their final series before the All-Star break. The nine-game losing streak has dropped their record to 42-42, the first time theyve been at breakeven since May 2, 58 games ago.
Do Indians fans keep the faith? Or do they grab a crossbow, head to the woods and prepare to defend themselves?
Here are three reasons to believe and three reasons to start attending survival classes.
Be a believer
1. Franmil Reyes is back and hes hitting home runs. Reyes is hitting .412 (7-for-17) with homers in consecutive games since coming off the injured list. Francona hasnt put him in the lineup every day because the medical team wants to make sure Reyes is fully recovered from the left oblique injury that sidelined him for nearly six weeks.
2. Yes, the rotation is in ruins. Too much is being asked of rookie starters J.C. Mejia, Sam Hentges and Eli Morgan. Cal Quantrill and Logan Allen, who have some big-league experience, have struggled as well. The Indians know all this, but they have nowhere else to turn. The 2016 draft class of Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac was an exception, not a rule.
The good news is Plesac is scheduled to return to the rotation tonight against the Royals in a monitored start. Unfortunately, it doesnt sound like Bieber or Civale, the two other keys to the rotation, will be back in the immediate future as they work to overcome injuries.
Perhaps veteran right-hander Brad Peacock can offer some help after the All-Star break. He recently signed a minor-league deal and has made two decent starts at Class AAA Columbus. Triston McKenzie, who opened the season in the rotation, has shown signs of improvement lately at Columbus.
3. Emmanuel Clase has had his problems recently, but the backend of the bullpen should be in good hands for the next few years. Clase and James Karinchak are just what the Indians ordered. Theyre young, throw really hard and work cheaply.
Clases last two appearances have ended in two losses and a blown save. Hes still 11-for-13 in save chances with a 1.51 ERA in his first full season in the big leagues. When a pitcher throws as hard as Clase does, strange things happen to the baseball when it runs into a bat. He still needs to work on his defense, which has cost him and the Indians games at least twice this season.
Karinchak seems to have weathered the sticky-stuff speculation just fine. Hes 4-2 with a 2.41 ERA and nine saves in 10 chances. The opposition is hitting .118 and hes averaging 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Clase is 23, Karincahk 25. Clase started the season with 59 days in the big leagues, while Karinchak was at 1 year and 17 days. If they can stay healthy, they could be part of the bullpen for quite a while.
Grab a machete and head for the hills
1. Soon, if they havent already, the Indians will contemplate trading third baseman Jose Ramirez by the July 31 deadline to help fuel their dreams of eternal contention. They have never been shy about trading their big ticket players when it comes time to pay them at the backend of their contracts. Francisco Lindor, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley are just a few examples.
Ramirez has two club options left on the deal that has made him one of baseballs best bargains. The options are worth $11 million and $13 million with a $2 million buyout after 2022. Would the Indians trade him now, trying to help the 2021 roster, while adding prospects for the future? Or would they try to ride out this season and trade him during the offseason?
They could also keep him. There has to be room, even on a $50 million payroll, for a bargain like Ramirez.
2. The Indians have a lot working against them starting with Bieber, Civale and Plesac missing so much time. Not to mention outfielder Josh Naylor, Eddie Rosario and Jordan Luplow being on the injured list and Ramirez being in and out of the lineup with a variety of injuries.
In the rotation, Bieber, Civale and Plesac are a combined 21-9 with a 3.50 ERA. The seven other pitchers who have started games for the Indians are 3-21.
The offense, terrible in April and May, is still terrible. Its been going on for so long now that weve almost grown immune to it. Among the 15 teams in the AL, the Indians rank 14th in batting average (.236), 14th in OPS (.672), 14th in on-base percentage (.295), 13th in runs (356, 4.25 runs per game), 12th in doubles (121) and 11th in homers (100).
Combine that offense with the reconstructed rotation and its a recipe for defeat. How often have you seen this scenario unfold this season for the Indians? The starters give up runs early and the offense doesnt have enough firepower to rally. When a team starts to lose games the same way night after night, that is almost impossible to change.
3. The Indians have been no-hit three times this year, two of the nine-inning variety, one over seven innings. In their previous 119 years of existence, theyd been no-hit 11 times and never more than once in a season.
This years team still has 78 games to play, including a pair of seven-inning doubleheaders in September. If they should happen to get no-hit for a fourth time, no matter how many innings it lasts, that could be a reason to start buying camouflaged gear and building a fortress in the mountains.
A variety of Cleveland Indians face masks available online today. (Fanatics.com)
New Indians face masks for sale: Heres where you can buy Cleveland Indians-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All MLB proceeds donated to charity.
More Indians coverage
Rays complete DH sweep, 8-1, 4-0, with 7-inning no-hitter
Eddie Rosario on IL, Logan Allen optioned to Columbus
On Rosario, options and 3 other things
Comparing Indians June attendance dates 2019 vs. 2021
Indians lose to Rays, 9-8, skid reaches seven games
Reyes rejoins slumping team, goes on a hot streak
On an All-Star Game invitation and four other things
Plesac to start Thursday vs. Royals
Bieber, Jose Ramirez selected as AL All-Star reserves
10th-inning mistakes lead to sixth straight loss, 4-3 to Astros
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero